This will save you the high cost of youth sports
This will save you the high cost of youth sports

Youth sports can be good character-building activities for children. They teach teamwork, communication and discipline – which can pay off later in life. In addition to the physical benefits, children who exercise can reduce stress, improve cognitive performance and create greater emotional health, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

However, participating in these activities often comes at a high price. Sports costs range from $191 per year (track and field) to $2,583 per year (ice hockey). Those costs are rising as inflation hits its highest level in 40 years. Wintergreen Research predicts that the youth sports industry will grow from $24.9 billion in 2019 to $77.6 billion by 2026.

Our youth sports savings guide will help you understand the costs involved and plan ahead before they become unsustainable for your financial situation.

Youth Sports Fees

Youth sports fees vary by sport. Fees may include registration fees, equipment, camp, private tuition and travel. Travel, in particular, can be the most expensive expense when you factor in fuel or flights, hotels, meals and other items. The average travel cost per sport is about $196, according to Project Play, a 2019 Aspen Institute research program that tracks youth sports participation and costs. This amount can vary by sport, for example, the average travel cost for hockey is $934.


Project Play estimates that sports families spend an average of $693 per child per sport per year. Their study also provided averages for different sports. For example, the average cost of swimming is $786 per year, while the cost of skiing is $2,249 per year. According to this data, a child who participates in skiing and swimming costs $3,035 a year

The chart below shows the annual costs of the five most expensive sports.


Key figures for youth sports spending:

  • On average, travel was the most expensive youth sports expense ($196 per year), followed by equipment ($144) and private tuition ($134). (Project Game)
  • The sports least likely to cost families are skateboarding and biking, with 38% of parents saying they would not spend money on skateboards and 33% saying they would not spend money on bicycles. (play item)
  • Among children ages 6 to 12, only 24 percent of children with household incomes of $25,000 or less regularly exercise, compared with 43 percent of children with household incomes of $100,000 or more. (Aspen Institute 2021 State of the Game Report)
    37% of boys participated in youth sports, while 30% of girls participated. (game state)
  • The sport with the highest participation rate in 2020 was cycling, with 18.2 percent of children ages 6 to 12, followed by basketball with 14.8 percent. (game state).
  • The sport with the largest decline in participation from 2019 to 2020 was swimming (-23.6%). Tennis, on the other hand, saw the largest increase (37.7%). (game state)
  • The three states with the highest reported participation in sports among children ages 6 to 17 are North Dakota (67.4%), Vermont (66%) and New Hampshire (65.8%). (2019-2020 National Child Health Survey)
  • The three states with the lowest reported participation in sports among children ages 6 to 17 are Louisiana (46%), New Mexico (46%) and Arizona (46.1%). (2019-2020 National Child Health Survey)
  • In polls in several districts including Harlem, New York, school was cited as the top reason for children not participating in sports; Mobile County, Alabama; Seattle-King County, Washington; and Hawaii. (Aspen College Community Youth Survey)
  • There is a disparity in youth sports participation between low and high socioeconomic schools; 24.6% of eighth graders participated in sports in low socioeconomic schools, while in high socioeconomic schools, 24.6% of eighth graders participated This ratio is 36.1%. (game state).

How to Fund Youth Sports

Open a savings account for sports expenses and fund them regularly. When shopping for a savings account, look out for high savings rates, no minimum account balances, and no monthly or low monthly fees. Some savings accounts may also offer bonuses that can add to the sports fund.

Set up automatic transfer. There are several third-party banking apps as well as savings apps that can be used to automatically transfer funds from checking accounts to savings accounts, such as B. Digital and Current. Even if you set up autopay to save just $10 every two weeks, that’s still $260 for a year.

Enjoy travel rewards. Many sports require regular travel, so it makes sense to earn rewards for those travel expenses. Travel credit cards offer cash back or redeemable points for hotel stays, car rentals, flights, restaurants, and more. Just make sure you pay off the balance each month so you can avoid interest charges.


Check for financing opportunities. Some youth sports teams hold fundraisers to offset various costs of participation, including equipment and travel.

Consider low-income or free options. Organizations like Every Kid Sport and Kids Play USA Foundation work with low-income families to provide them with resources so their kids can play. Local organizations such as the YMCA may also offer opportunities to help.

Encourage your child to take summer jobs. Washing the car, walking the dog, or babysitting during the off-month may be a way to teach your child more money literacy while encouraging them to save for exercise.

How to cut costs and set a budget

  • Even with fundraising and low-cost options, you may still have to pay for some youth sports. However, knowing costs up front and having a budget can make those expenses more manageable.
  • Here are some ways to budget for youth sports expenses:
  • Incorporate the cost of exercise into your savings goals. Consider creating a separate line in your savings budget for various youth sports expenses, including attendance, training camp, uniforms, equipment, and travel.
  • Anticipate possible costs at different times of the season. For example, you may be required to pay for equipment and registration at the beginning of the season and a certain amount of travel expenses later in the season. Knowing how much you’re going to spend can help you save ahead of time.
  • Save money by buying used sports equipment. Equipment can be the most expensive item in youth sports and one of the biggest areas where you can save. Retailers like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or Play It Again Sports are all places you can get your gear (and cheaper).
  • Pool resources to save money. Carpooling children to local races or getting group hotel rates can reduce fuel and travel costs.
  • Find volunteer opportunities within sports organizations. By volunteering, you can reduce or waive the cost of participation.
  • Register early. Many sports organizations offer discounts if you register early for games and tournaments.

Bottom line

With high inflation and youth sport already quite expensive, it’s important to know what to expect when paying for your child’s sports participation so you can prepare ahead of time.

Some of the ways to ease these cost burdens include budgeting, raising capital, and finding low-cost alternatives. Consider opening a savings account and investing regularly. You can then build an exercise expense fund while earning interest.

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Jake Smith

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Jake Smith

He is the editor of Eragoncred. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of Eragoncred and a financial industry reporter. Jake has spent most of his career as a Digital Media journalist and has over 10 years of experience as a writer and editor.